Today was my very last "More than the Zombie Apocalypse: Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy" class that I taught as part of the Loft's Youth Summer Writing Program. It was tough to say goodbye to these students.
I didn't actually lecture very much. I don't really believe in it.
When I was fifteen, only a few really amazing lectures would hold my attention, but even the most stellar of them would get a margin full of doodles. As a teenager what I really, really wanted to do was engage and DO. So, with that in mind, I suggested we try workshopping--doing what I get the pleasure to do every time I attend Wyrdsmiths.
It worked amazingly well.
Even though it's been around a long time, I always handout http://www.crayne.com/howcrit.html. It's exhaustive. It's a good tool for someone who has never, ever critiqued before because it let's you know what to even look for in terms of dialogue and pacing. I really doubt that my kids read all of it, but they had it in their hands in case they needed it.
Then I taught them the thing that my very first Loft instructor (the one who began Wyrdsmiths 20 years ago) taught me.
Read twice. Once as a reader without thinking beyond enjoyment (or not) and then write down your very first impressions.
Then, especially because these are kids (but honestly I still could use this from time to time), it's important to start with with strengths, even if it's 'you spelled everything right'! Because, it's so much easier to hear what needs fixing when you already have heard you don't suck. I was so proud of my students, because they GOT this. There was none of that "it was like waiting for Godot, but without all the action" crap.
Weaknesses comes next, though for the class I'm careful to talk about in terms of improvements. I try to make sure that the students think in terms of what they'd want from a critique session. Again, I was super impressed with my students. Sometimes they were maybe a bit overly honest, but there was a tenderness towards their colleagues that impressed the hell out of me.
Then, I have people finish with overall, mostly so that after whatever weaknesses have been discussed you can remind them about the general feeling of the thing, that, you know, there were some confusing bits, the characters were charming or whatever.
They really got this.
Mama-bear was proud.